Ranma's engagement to Nabiki would be tough enough without her tomboy twin Akane.  Unfortunately the two girls are literally inseparable…they're conjoined twins!

Two for the price of one

A work of-fan fiction by Dan Stickney.

Ranma ½ is the property of Rumiko Takahashi.

******

It began, as it always does, with a simple postcard

Tendo:  Bringing Ranma from China  -Saotome

"At last…at long last..  He's finally coming.  The schools will be joined at last! I must inform the girls."

The tall, lanky Sensei sprang to his feet.  "Kasumi! Akane!  Nabiki!" he called, but there was no response, so he headed for the kitchen, sure he'd find his oldest daughter there working on dinner.  The younger two, the twins, were a different matter, because they could be anywhere.  But wherever they were, they were together - because they did everything together.  Those girls were literally inseparable.

*******

Huf-Huf-Huf

It's said that the Japanese are the world's politest people – largely because they have to be, given how crowded their cities are. 

Huf-Huf-Huf

Take Tokyo for example.  No one who has never been there can truly believe just how many people jam the streets of that vast metropolis.  The seemingly teeming throngs of London or New York City pale in comparison.

Huf-Huf-Huf

And that's why the Japanese simply must be so polite: Rudeness would make such crowding simply unbearable.  Put plainly, manners are the social lubricant that prevents them from killing each other.  In fact, one might even go so far to say that Japan's Samurai past has proven to be the perfect underpinning for her urbanized present, because generations of touchy, hotheaded people running around with swords quickly separated the Japanese population into two groups:  the polite, and the dead.

Huf-Huf-Huf 

That said, however, there are less crowded parts of Tokyo: green and leafy suburbs like Nerima, the largest of Tokyo's 23 ancient wards.  There one can often find relative peace and quiet, at least between rush hours.  But even in Nerima most Japanese would never dream of being so ill-mannered as to openly stare at someone.  But stare they did, because even in oh-so-polite Japan the sight of the Tendo twins jogging was a stare-worthy event:  Two girls, each an exact mirror image of the other, moving as one.

Huf-Huf-Huf 

Akane Tendo ignored the people staring at them and concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other.  Beside her, Nabiki wiped the sweat off her brow.  "Man, sis.  How the heck did I let you talk me into this?" she puffed in rhythm with their perfectly synchronized footfalls

"You want to keep your figure, don't you?"  Akane shot back.  "If you didn't keep snacking all the time, we wouldn't need to run so much."  She paused for breath before continuing.  "Anyway, stop complaining.  I agreed we'd cut this short so we could do your yoga tonight, didn't I?" She grimaced as Nabiki wiped her brow again.  "And stop doing that, you're messing up our rhythm.  You should wear a headband like I do."

Nabiki grimaced.  "I'm not complaining about the running, Sis,"   Their breath huffed in unison, perfectly synchronized just like their pace.  "I'm complaining about the timing.  I wouldn't need a bloody headband if we'd waited longer after the rain.  This humidity is killing me."  

"Oh, poor baby."  Akane jeered back, smirking as she glanced at her twin's profile out of the corner of her eye.  "What's the matter?  Can't take the heat?  Ready to admit that I'm the only real martial artist in the family?"  

Nabiki matched Akane's smirk even as she took the hint and picked up the pace a little.  Sure, she knew she was being manipulated, but she really didn't care.  Akane knew that her teasing always prodded the best performance out of her twin, and knew that Nabiki was counting on it.   And Nabiki knew that Akane knew.  Still, it wouldn't work if Nabiki didn't play the game too.  "Heh.  Bring it on, Sis."  I'll be right beside you, as always. 

********

"Kasumi?  Have you seen Akane and Nabiki?"

The oldest Tendo girl pursed her lips judiciously.  "Out running, I think.  Do you need to talk to them, Father?"

"Yes, I'd like to see all three of you in the tearoom as soon as they get back."

*********

Fortunately, both the gate and the front door were open when the twins got home, so Nabiki and Akane didn't even have to stop running until they reached the room they shared at the top of the stairs. 

"Father wants a family meeting you two!"  Kasumi called after them as they bolted up the stairs two at a time.  Akane didn't even take the time to close the door before they started yanking off their running clothes.

"Hey, somebody might see us."  Nabiki objected as they changed into their favorite yellow Gi.

"Like who?  Dad?   Kasumi?"  Akane scoffed as they headed back towards the stairs.  "Come on.   Let's go to the Dojo.  I want to at least get in at least part of a workout."

Nabiki held her tongue as she helped Akane place a fresh cinderblock on top of two others. Akane scowled, concentrated, then shouted a loud kiai as she smashed her fist through it.

"There you go again Akane.  No wonder all the boys think we're weird."

Akae huffed and ran her hand through her long hair.  "So what.  They'd think we're weird anyway.  And not everybody thinks the world revolves around boys, Nabiki..."

Whatever she might have chosen to say next was interrupted by their older sister sliding open the shoji.  "There you are.  Didn't you hear me?  I said father wants to see us all in the tearoom.  He said it's important."  Her eyes crinkled ominously as she took in the shattered pieces of block scattered about. 

"Sorry sis."  Akane muttered apologetically.  "Don't worry about the mess; we'll clean it up later."

Nabiki puffed her bangs out of her face in seeming annoyance.  "Ooh, ain't we Miss obsequious all of a sudden."  The dojo was silent for a long, moment before the twins exchanged sidelong glances and started giggling.

"You two…"  Kasumi scolded warningly, though her eyes were laughing.

"We'll clean it up later, Sis."  Akane assured her older sister breezily as she and Nabiki brushed past her on their way to the door.  Kasumi shook her head and turned to follow.

"Jeeze, Nabiki, you really shouldn't tease Kasumi like that…"  Akane was muttering as they headed for the house.

"Why not? Otherwise, I'd be stuck picking on you.  And that's just way too easy." 

Akane shrieked as Nabiki pinched her butt.  "Hey, no fair!" 

Kasumi just shook her head behind them.  Twins.

*******

"WHAT?"  Akane shrieked at her father.

"I said, he's the son of an old friend, and a lifelong student of the anything goes style.  If one of you were to marry him, the future of the school would be secure."

"One of us?"  Nabiki and Akane exchanged another one of their sidelong glances.  "But that's not…"

"How old is this boy, Daddy?  Younger men bore me."  Kasumi overrode them.

"Sixteen.  Same age as these two."

"Don't you think we deserve a say in whom we're going to marry?" Akane shouted, loud enough to make Nabiki wince.

"Akane…"  Soun placated.  "No one says you have to marry him.  It could just as easily be Nabiki or Kasumi as you."

"Daddy…"  Nabiki began hesitantly, cutting off her twin before she could explode again.  Unlike her more hotheaded sister, she was kind of intrigued by this potential romantic prospect.  Unfortunately, her father seemed to have overlooked some very important details.  "I don't think you've thought this all the way through…" She was cut off by a loud knocking from the Genkan.

"Someone is at the door."  Kasumi announced unnecessarily.

"Saotome, my old friend, it's good to see you" her father called prematurely as he leaped to his feet

"Ooooh."  Nabiki squealed.  "It must be Ranma!  Let's go see!"

"No."  Akane muttered, heaving a sigh.  Boys…how depressing

"But…" Nabiki objected

"I don't want to go.  Let them come to us, if they have to."

Nabiki could only kneel there helplessly, unable to follow as her father headed down the hallway. Kasumi stopped in the doorway, looking uncertainly between her kneeling sisters and her father's retreating back, before she chose to go after him.  However, Nabiki's disappointment was brief as her father and sister soon reappeared, pursued by a large wild animal! Nabiki and Akane leaped to their feet, prepared to battle in defense of their family.  Soun spun and took up a defensive posture, his arms flung wide to keep his daughters behind him

"YO!  Cut it out old man, you're scaring them spitless!"  Shouted a strange voice from somewhere behind the Panda's shoulder.  The panda stopped short, then gently set a petite figure in baggy Chinese clothes on the floor in front of them.  There was a stunned silence as they stared at this strange person blinking back at them.

"So, Daddy, are these your friends?"  Kasumi asked coolly after a long moment.  Her father shook his head violently.

"OK, so this Panda just happened to visit.  Happens all the time."  Nabiki growled, a little hysterically.

"Who are you?"  Akane asked, ever the blunt one, asked the stranger directly.

The pigtailed stranger averted her gaze.  "I'm Ranma Saotome.  Sorry 'bout this."

"Ranma, at long last!  Mr. Tendo shouted, gathering the youngster in his arms, only to stop short as the person he was hugging proved to be much more…resilient than he expected.  He held the stranger out at arms length. 

Nabiki snaked her arm around her father and poked at the stranger's chest.  "Daddy…'He' is a girl."

Soun Tendo's eyes rolled up as he collapsed to the floor in a dead faint

"Jeez, Dad, you're pathetic."  Akane muttered, embarrassed.

The pigtailed stranger ignored him, massaging her right breast as she turned to Nabiki instead. "Hey, what's the big idea of poking me there? That hurts…you…know…"  Ranma's voice trailed off as she got her first really good look at the person she was addressing…A girl about her own age, nicely built, wearing a yellow gi, with dark hair, and…two… heads…

The three Tendo sisters, one normal and two conjoined, looked on in surprise as their unexpected guest joined Mr. Tendo in unconsciousness on the floor.

"Wuss."  Akane huffed contentiously. 

******

The first thing Ranma noticed as she returned to consciousness was the voices.

"Poor father.  He must be so disappointed."  That voice sounded sympathetic, cool, and musical

"He's disappointed?  Some fiancé this is!"  That one, on the other hand, sounded disappointed enough to make Ranma wince.  Though you'd think I'd have gotten used to shock and pity by now.

"Hush, you two.  He…she… is our guest."  The third voice, so much like the second, sounded strangely…relieved?

Ranma opened her eyes and sat up, rubbing her head.  "Man, I just had the strangest dream."

"Really?  What sort of dream?" The tallest girl, the one with the musical voice, asked her kindly.

Ranma smiled sheepishly.  "I could have sworn I saw a girl with two…" she turned and faced the other girl kneeling next to the futon, and her eyes bugged out.  This time, though, she managed not to faint.   It hadn't been a dream after all.  There really was a two-headed girl.  The left-hand head smiled sheepishly while the head on the right glared back at her.

"We are not a two-headed girl, you jerk.  We're conjoined twins."  The right-hand head muttered huffily.  Despite her current anger, Ranma noticed that she'd been the third voice, the relieved-sounding one.

"Now, now, Sis.  There's no need to get angry." The second head responded in, appropriately enough, the second voice.  She turned to address Ranma.  "Hi.  I'm Nabiki, and this is Akane."  She nodded at the elder sister kneeling at her father's side across from them.  "That's Kasumi."

"Uh…hi."  Ranma responded at last, staring openly. "I'm, uh…Ranma."

"Ranma, you shouldn't stare at people.  It's not polite" the oldest girl, Kasumi, chided gently.

"It's OK, Kasumi."  The left-hand head, Nabiki, reassured her.  "After all, it's a safe bet she's never seen anyone like us before."  She turned back to Ranma, unmistakable pride in her voice.  "We're the only dicephalic twins in all of Japanese history."

The pigtailed girl looked puzzled.  "Dice what?" 

The right-hand head –Akane-- rolled her eyes.  "Dicephalus means two heads."

Ranma tried to puzzle that out.  "But you just said that you didn't have two heads, that you, you was whatchamacallit – 'joined twins…"

Akane pursed her lips in frustration.  Jeez, this girl is dim.  But then again, she also wasn't screaming, or flinching, or fleeing, or otherwise freaking out the way most people did on meeting them. So maybe she had potential.   She looked thoughtful for a moment, before her eyes lit up.  "Hey, do you want to be friends?"

Caught by surprise by the major mood shift, it was all Ranma could do to mutter, "Um, uh, yeah.  Why not?"

"Look, you do martial arts, right?  Want to see the dojo?  We'll explain as we go.  We could even have a little match.  What do you say?"  Beside her, Nabiki nodded without saying anything.  The two of them got to their feet, and reached down to pull Ranma up with them.

Ranma couldn't help noticing that their grips were pretty strong--for girls.  "Uh, OK, I guess…"

Kasumi just shook her head as Akane and Nabiki headed for the Dojo with their pigtailed visitor in tow. Trust those two to figure out a way to pry a sparring match out of this debacle.  Beside her, the Panda made a similar gesture, for similar reasons.

***********

Man, I thought I'd be ready for anything after Jusenkyo, but nothing, not even turning into a girl when I got wet, had prepared me for meetin' a two-headed girl--who somehow insisted that she really wasn't a two-headed girl--let alone joinin' her (them?) in a very traditional looking dojo for a sparing match.  I got a good long look as I followed 'em across the walkway, and from what I could see from behind they looked kinda, well, normal…IF you could ignore the second head, that is.  I mean, they had two arms, and two legs, and two, er…well, you know.  The left head - Nabiki, she'd said her name was - had short hair, and Akane's was long, but otherwise, they were perfect mirror images of each other.  They had a really scary way of talkin' too; they kept finishin' each other's sentences.

"So." Nabiki began.  "We're really just like any other identical twins…"

Akane took over in mid-sentence "… in that we started from a single egg."

Nabiki:  "Only our egg didn't divide all the way…"

Akane:  "…so we ended up like this."

Nabiki:  "They call us dicephalic twins because we look like one girl with two heads, but…"

"but we're really two half-girls fused together."  Akane finished for her as they turned back to me.  "So, what do you think?"

"Think?" I echoed, startled.

"About the dojo, silly."  Nabiki responded.

Dojo?  What dojo?  Oh.  I tore my eyes off of them and took a quick look around.  "Uh, it's nice."  I stammered.  "It kinda needs to be cleaned up a little, though."

Nabiki glared sidelong – the only way she could – at her sister.  "Told you." 

"Yeah, yeah." Akane muttered.  She focused on me.  "So, you do kempo, right?"

"Um, yeah…"

"You want to have a little match?  I promise we won't hurt you."

"Um, OK."  Man, was I in trouble now.  It wasn't getting hurt that I was worried about.  I mean, freaky two-headed thing or not, they were only girls, right?  But I couldn't just clobber 'em or humiliate 'em either.  I mean, they'd actually been nice to me, so far.  So what to do?  Unfortunately, I didn't have time to think about it before they came at me.

Man, what a bizarre experience that was.  I mean, most of reading someone's moves is lookin' at their head, you know?  Even folks who don't telegraph with their arms and legs have a hard time not tensing their necks before they move, and it gives 'em away every time.  But I never, ever had to keep an eye on two heads before, and I'm kinda ashamed to say that they nearly tagged me with their first strike, even as slow as they was.  Strange thing though: they may have been slow, but they were graceful.

So anyway, I just kept dodging and dodging, trying to figure out what to do, and I couldn't help but notice that the two of them were reacting very differently.  The left one – Nabiki- seemed almost amused by my antics, while the right one – Akane – just kept lookin' madder and madder.  So maybe the really were two different people after all.  Finally, Akane muttered "This time for real" and they threw a powerful right haymaker that just smashed clean through the wall paneling, giving me the opportunity to vault over them, touching them on the backs of their heads as I flew by.  They tried to yank the fist out of the hole and turn to follow, but they overbalanced and sat down on their butt, hard, instead.

"Ow, sis."  Nabiki complained after a long moment.  "That hurt, you know.  How many times have I got to tell you not to overextend yourself like that?"

"Sorry."  Akane muttered.  "I guess I got carried away again."  She brushed back her hair, then peered at the back of her fingers.

"Did you hurt your hand?"  Nabiki asked, peering over at it too.

"Naw, not really - just scraped my knuckles.  How about you?"

"I'm fine.  Just bruised my butt."  Nabiki replied and all I could think was: her butt?  Didn't she mean their butt?  Akane interrupted my confusion by looking up at me and smiling

"Heh, you're pretty good."  She said as the two of them clambered to their feet.  "Can you teach us some of those moves?  I'm really glad you're not a boy." She said, her face twisting in disgust.

Uh-oh I thought, my face falling. 

"What my sister means," Nabiki said, with yet another of those sidelong glances, "Is that neither of us is ready to get married yet…" 

"Or ever."  Akane interrupted.

Nabiki continued like she hadn't heard.  "And since you're a girl we won't have to be engaged to you.  Hopefully, we can all still be friends though."

"Thanks…" I muttered, looking at the floor.  "I…I've never really had many friends before."

"Cool.  We're gonna go get cleaned up.  See ya!"  And with a wave and two smiles the girl who was somehow really two girls turned and walked off, leaving me behind them in that big and empty room.

What to do...What to do?

******

I found myself kneeling on the engawa, looking at the Koi pond, wonderin' if my life could possibly get any weirder, and trying to figure out just what the heck to do next.  Unfortunately, I hadn't come to any conclusions before the older girl, Kasumi her name was, corralled me and sent me off to the bath.  I tried to resist, really I did, but there was something about her the just made "no" seem like an impossible answer.

What to do...What to do?

So I did as I was bid, and headed for the bathroom, scrubbed up, and climbed into the tub, shivering a little as the tingling of the change overtook me.  At least it was a very nice furo, big enough for the whole family.  I guess that should have tipped me off that somebody might try to join me, but frankly I was too stuck in my mental rut to make the connection. 

Guess I just oughta go out as I am.  No point in tryin' to keep this a secret.

Mind made up, I stood up to leave. Unfortunately, that's when the shoji suddenly zhooped aside, and Akane and Nabiki stepped in, wearing nothin' but the bath towels they had draped over their arms, and froze.

Naked, they looked less like a two-headed girl and more like the 'joined twins' they said they was.  I mean, each had her own breastbone, and I could clearly see three honest-to-goodness collarbones.  But it was what was below them collarbones that that really caught my eye, because they actually had three boobs: the center one was just so much smaller than the outer two that I hadn't seen it under their clothes.  Below that it got more normal-lookin': their combined torsos tapered in to a normal-looking waist, and they only had one navel.  Everything below that looked normal enough, not that I'm any judge.  I mean, so far as I could tell (and I'd learned a lot in the weeks since I'd been cursed) girls' privates pretty much all look the same: all you can see is hair, unless you get a lot closer than I wanted to.   They stood there and stared at me for what seemed like forever in stunned shock,  Nabiki in particular taking a good look at my privates, before they turned and stepped quickly back through the doorway.  As the screen zhooped shut I got a clear view of how their two spinal columns joined at the small of their back.

Oh man, now I'm really in for it.  I thought as the screaming started.

********  

Startled, Kasumi turned from her soup and raced out of the kitchen as her sisters ran screaming down the hallway, clad only in their gi-top and looking like they'd just seen a ghost.  "What's wrong?"

"There's a pervert in the bathroom."  Akane shouted, casting around frantically for something to use as a weapon.  She pointed at the large stone lantern next to the Koi pond.  "There!  We'll weigh him down and drown him in the tub!" 

Nabiki shook her head.  "Why don't we just clobber him with our bare hands?"

Kasumi suddenly dropped the serving spoon she'd been holding and clutched at her face in horror.  "Oh, No!  Ranma-chan was in the bathroom.  You have to save her!"

"Because I'm scared!"  Akane shot back at Nabiki, ignoring Kasumi for the time being.  However, before she could say anything else the soft "Ah-hem" of someone quietly clearing his throat froze all of them.  They turned slowly to see a strange pigtailed boy wearing Ranma-chans's Chinese clothes looking at them sheepishly from the hallway, his hair still wet and disheveled from the bath.  

Kasumi was the first to regain her voice.  "Who are you?" 

"Ah, well, I'm Ranma Saotome."  The mysterious boy replied.  "Sorry 'bout this."

********

I guess I should stop wondering if my life could possibly get any weirder.  I'd a' thought that our story alone would've been enough to make old man Tendo toss me and Pops out on our ears.  Instead, he started patting me on the shoulder, grinning like a maniac.

"So let me get this straight:  You turn into a girl when you get splashed with cold water, but hot water turns you back into a boy?"

I nodded uncertainly.  Just what was he leading up to?

"So there's really no problem then, is there?  These are my three daughters:  Kasumi is eighteen, and Nabiki and Akane are sixteen…" he smiled, taking in the girls with a sweep of his hand.  "Pick one, and she'll be your fiancée."

'WHAT?"  Akane shrieked.  "You honestly expect one of us to marry that…that…freak?"

Man, you can't believe how much it hurt to hear that …especially since I'd been thinking along the same lines myself for two weeks now.  "I'm a freak?  Have you looked in a mirror lately?"

Jeez, I regretted that before I'd even finished saying it.  The looks on their faces, Nabiki's especially…I swear, if I'd have realized how much that would hurt, I would've torn out my tongue instead.  I dropped my gaze to the floor.  "Fine.  I guess I am a freak.  Go ahead and laugh at me, I don't care anymore."  I tried to swallow the lump in my throat.  "I thought you wanted to be friends."   I stood up.  "Come on, Pop."

Unfortunately, the old man wasn't followin' my script. "Where do you think you're going, boy?"

"Back to China, to find a cure."  Or die trying.  After all, if these refugees from a carnival sideshow don't want me, what hope have I got?

Suddenly, Kasumi spoke up.  "I think Nabiki should marry Ranma, Father.  That is, if she wants to."  She continued into their stunned faces.  "They're both the same age, and they both like martial arts.  Isn't the whole idea supposed to be a joining of the two schools?"  I slumped back down on my knees in surprise.  Surprisingly, Nabiki didn't object.  Akane on the other hand …

"WHAT?"  She shrieked again.  "What about me?"

"Akane." Her father began reasonably.  "You already said you didn't want to marry Ranma."

"Dammit Dad, it's not like Nabiki can do anything without me!  Especially this!"

"But Akane."  Kasumi put in reasonably. "You don't much like boys, do you?"

"But that's just because they're all perverts!"

"Well, then you're in luck aren't you?  Ranma's half girl.  He's perfect for you two."

I almost objected at that point, but Pops whacked me on the knee to warn me to keep quiet.

"But he's a pervert!" Akane objected

"What do you mean Akane?"  Nabiki spoke for the first time.  "We walked in him, remember?"

Akane gestured in frustration.  "But he saw us naked!"

Nabiki shook her head.  "Akane, we saw him naked too."

"But it's different when a girl sees a boy naked."  Akane objected irrationally.

Man, what did I just say 'bout weirder?  If you don't think anything could be stranger than the sight of a two headed girl, try watching a two-headed girl arguing with herself sometime.  "So what if I saw you naked?" I jerked my thumb at my right breast, reminding them of my current female state. "I've seen myself naked plenty of times, and you ain't got nothing I ain't got."   I probably should've shut up then, but I didn't.  "Except for that third boob, of course…"

WHAMMO!

*******

Kasumi and her father stared in mute astonishment as Nabiki and Akane dusted their hands together with a joint "hmmph" and flounced off towards their room, leaving their erstwhile fiancé unconscious under the overturned table.  Genma, on the other hand, merely took a sip of his tea.  "Now that one he had coming to him."

********

"Ah, you're awake."

Man, my head hurt.  And the lights were like ice picks stabbing into my eyes.  I found myself lying face down on some tatami mats, a cold compress on the top of my head.  I looked over and gradually focused on Kasumi, kneeling beside me with another compress at the ready.

"I hope you'll forgive my sisters.  They're…a bit touchy about some things."

You're tellin' me?  I almost asked, before I caught myself and nodded instead.  

Kasumi smiled and stood up.  "Akane, Nabiki…Ranma's awake."

I sat up as the joined girls entered with mixed expressions. Nabiki looking more apologetic, Akane more hostile.

"Now I want all three of you to apologize to each other.  We all have to get along until we get this straightened out."

"Yes, Oneechan."  The two sisters muttered in unison. 

I was about to object – something along the lines of Hey, they hit me! – but one look at Kasumi's face made me think better of it.  I turned back to the twins.  "I'm sorry."

"We're really sorry, Ranma."  Nabiki began.  "Aren't we Akane?" 

Akane didn't respond at once.  Suddenly, the hand on Nabiki's side of their body snaked over and prodded the other side in the ribs.

"Yeah, whatever."  Akane muttered.

"Akane?"  Kasumi asked, a hint of steel in her voice.

"Oh all right.  I'm sorry too, OK?  There, satisfied?"

"Good.  I'm going to leave the three of you alone so you can get to know each other better."  She stood up and turned to go.  "Now be nice.  I should think that all three of you would be grateful for whatever friends you could get." 

We sat there for a long moment, nobody saying anything.  Finally I couldn't stand the silence any longer.  "Don't get me wrong or nothing, 'cause I ain't ready to marry anybody yet, but…Is the idea of bein' engaged to me really so bad?"  Shoot, I'd a thought a couple of freaks like them woulda been grateful.

 "Daddy really hasn't thought this whole fiancé thing through properly."  Nabiki muttered dejectedly. 

"He's still living in denial." Akane mumbled.  "He wants to believe we can actually get married."

I looked at the two of them.  I mean, the thought of marrying either one of them seemed positively creepy, but there had to be at least one guy in the whole world who'd be willing to try it.  "Why not?"

"Think about it."  Akane began.  "We share one womb."

"Not to mention the cunt it's connected to." interjected Nabiki sweetly.  Akane turned to glare at her, but Nabiki seemed suddenly interested in something on the far wall.  Maybe these two really were individuals after all.

"What's that got to do with it?"  I responded, confused.  "I mean, you share everything else, don't you?   Why would sharing your, um…" I gestured at Nabiki…"…plumbing… mean that you can't get married?"

They sighed and spoke together.  "Think it through… "

"As two people, we can't marry the same person." Akane continued

"That would be bigamy…" Nabiki put in

"And with only one uh, uh…" Akane seemed stuck

"Pussy…" interjected Nabiki, earning another glare, "we can't marry two people…"

"…that would be adultery," finished Akane.  "In fact, under Japanese law, if we have any sex at all..."

"Even masturbation…" threw in Nabiki

"…it would be considered both sodomy and incest." Akane concluded. "Plus there's the whole issue of maternity…"

"Right." Nabiki picked up smoothly.  "Any child we bear, we bear together."

"So who gets to be the official mother?" Akane added. "I'm not going through pregnancy and labor just to have Nabiki declared the sole mother just because she's married to the father."

"It's bad enough sharing clothes."   Nabiki finished, and the two sisters shared a look.

By this point I felt like a spectator at a tennis match.  "You know, I ain't sure which is worse."  I told them. "The way you complete each other's sentences, or the way you speak in unison."

"Is this any better?" they responded in perfect harmony, Akane supplying the low tones, and Nabiki the high ones.

"How do you do that?"  I asked, astounded.

"We only have one diaphragm."  they continued together, swapping parts.

"Either we speak in unison…"  Akane began

"…or we take turns."  Nabiki continued

"…because it's easier than saying different things at the same time."  They concluded together.

"But how do you know what the other's gonna say?"  I couldn't help asking.

"We just know."  They responded in unison.  I can't even begin to describe what their shrug looked like.

"Ranma…"  Nabiki said, hesitantly.  "We share the same skin, OK?  I mean, you can't spend your whole life together without getting to know each other pretty well, you know?"

"Yeah."  Akane threw in "We're just like any other identical twins in that regard, only more so."

"So… what's it like?"

The two of them shared a look.  "What do you want to know?" Nabiki responded

"Do you share everything below the neck?"

Nabiki shook her head.  "No, not at all.  We really are two half-girls fused together.  I have all control and feeling on my side, and Akane on hers.  There's about a ten-centimeter wide strip down the middle that we both share, but that's about it."

"Yeah, thank god for that."  Akane threw in.  At my confused look she continued.  "It would be really horrible having to go to the bathroom, and not be able to do anything about it."   

Nabiki nodded.  "Anyway, so that's how we live.  Akane has her side and I have my side, and we both share the stuff in the middle.  For instance, we've got three lungs: mine, hers, and one in the middle that we both share…."

"Yeah, it really sucks when we get bronchitis."

"…we also have three kidneys the same way.  Hers, mine, and ours.  We each have our own stomachs…"

"Yeah, and if you don't stop stuffing yours, we're going to get fat."  Akane groused.

"…but only one set of intestines." Nabiki finished

Suddenly, something occurred to me.  "Wait a minute…If you each control your own side, then how the heck do you walk?"  Let alone practice Kenpo?

Nabiki looked back at me seriously.  "How do YOU walk, Ranma?"

"Well, I put one foot in front of the other…"

"Yeah, but how do you know how to do that?  How do you know which muscles to use when?" Akane asked.

Hmmm, I'd never thought about that.  "I dunno…I just do, I guess."

"Well, we just do too.   We don't know how we walk, we just do.  It's the same way with two-handed tasks, like tying our shoes, and martial arts.  We don't know how we do it… we just do."

*******

Bedtime at the Tendo Dojo that night came rather early for most of the residents, as the Tendos and their house guests sought the refuge of sleep to free them from the burden of their various hopes and fears.

Soun Tendo sighed contentedly as he stretched out on his futon.  Things were definitely looking up.  He was sure that, given a chance, Nabiki would win over Ranma, and the schools would be joined.  Sure, Akane isn't too happy about it at the moment, He thought fuzzily, but she'll get used to it.  After all, it isn't like she's the one that has to marry the boy.

For Genma, the issue wasn't quite so straightforward.  My son, marry that…freak?  If his mother ever found out…  He took a moment to steady his breathing  Now, now, no reason to get upset about it – there's no way the boy will ever consent to anything that repulsive.  I'm sure it won't take long for Tendo to see reason and switch the engagement to Kasumi.  And if not, there's always that Kuonji girl…

Kasumi was smiling as she settled under her covers.  This had been the best day she'd had in a long time.  Maybe Kami-sama had finally decided to answer her prayers.   Ranma really could be both a boy for Nabiki and a girl for Akane, if indeed her little sister did swing that way.  (Kasumi didn't actually think that, but lately she'd begun to wonder...)  Sure Ranma was a bit rough around the edges, and they'd certainly gotten off to a bad start, but he was bound by family honor to at least try to make a go of it.  Maybe her little sisters weren't doomed to spinsterhood after all.

One could safely say that the other two Tendo girls were less thrilled about the recent course of events.  They got ready for bed in silence, life-long experience obviating any need to speech.  It wasn't until after they'd spent several minutes staring at the ceiling that Nabiki finally broke the silence.

"So, sis, what do you really think of Ranma?"

"Him?  OK, I guess.  He's really good at the art.  Too bad he's such a crude, clueless, perverted jerk.  Why?"

"Well, I was just thinking…"

Akane was surprised by the wistful tone of her sister's voice.  "You aren't actually thinking about accepting this engagement, are you?

Nabiki was silent for a long moment.

"Well, are you?"

"He saw us naked and he didn't run away screaming ...and there's that whole family honor thing….and he seems fascinated that we can do martial arts…and I think he might actually like us a little…and…I…"

"Spit it out, Sis."

"I'm afraid that he might be our only chance…I don't want us to be stuck alone…"

"Nabiki, we'll never be alone.  We'll always have each other, forever."

"I know, but… this is different."

Akane's hand snaked up and gently traced the outline of the central nipple, the one they both shared.  "How is it different?"

Nabiki reached over, and caught Akane's hand with hers.  "Please, sis, I'm not in the mood."

"No?  give it a minute, and you will be."  Nabiki grimaced.  Akane was right, shared hormones, and the emotions they triggered, were one aspect of their shared bloodstream.  If one of them got horny, then the other one would too.  Usually, this wasn't a problem.  Usually.   Thank God we can't get horny separately.  If we could, you couldn't make love to one of us without sexually assaulting the other.

"Please, sis."  Nabiki pleaded.

"Oh all right."  Akane relented, returning her hand to her side.

Nabiki smiled in relief.  "Now you go to sleep.  It's my turn to stay up tonight."

"Oh, all right."  Akane yawned.  "G'night, sis."

Nabiki turned her head and gently kissed her sister's cheek.  "Good night."

As for Ranma, he'd looked for a quiet place to think, eventually finding refuge on the roof beneath the open sky he'd slept under for most of his young life.  He grimaced, the glare from the city lights surrounding him washed out most of the stars.  Say what you want about Jusenkyo, the night skies over Qinghai were truly spectacular.  Unfortunately, he found his attention kept drifting from the stars to images of Nabiki's deep brown eyes.  Or were they Akane's?  The two of them looked so alike…

 Oh man, what am I gonna do.  It's bad enough I've become a freak myself, now I've got to be engaged to a couple of other freaks too?  He tried to picture himself actually married to them, and shuddered.  It was really kinda too bad, when you thought about it.  Each of them alone could have been kinda cute…taken together, though…Ranma decided to give up on his star-gazing.  If he couldn't get his mind off of this, he figured he was better off asleep.  He dropped back down into the yard and crept through the side door, moving as quietly as possible to avoid waking anyone.  He'd made it to the top of the stairs and was just about to open the guest room shoji when a soft voice called to him from the twin's bedroom.

*******

Given what I've been through in my life, I wouldn't have thought that a girl's voice would be enough to make me freeze in horror.  Shows what little you know.

"Ranma… is that you? Can you come in for a minute?  I want to talk to you."

It sounded like Nabiki.   "But…"

"Oh, don't be such a worrywart.  Akane's asleep."

I hesitantly pushed open the door with the two facing duck-shaped nameplates.  Nabiki put down the manga she'd been reading.  Akane's eyes were closed, her face half shadowed by the small reading light her sister was using.  "Heh…She really is asleep."

Nabiki smiled.  "We try to stagger our bedtimes.  It's the only way we have of getting any time alone."

I thought about that for a moment.  "You're never really alone, though, are you?"

Nabiki shook her head.  "No.  How can I be, when I can literally feel her pulse in my veins?  Do you realize that our heartbeats synchronize?  Not now, I mean, because she's asleep and I'm awake, but when we're both doing the same thing, they beat as one.  And if anything happened to my heart, Akane's could do the job for both of us.  And vice-versa, of course."

"Shoot, I guess I'm kinda your opposite then."  I muttered.  "I mean, I've been alone my whole life.  It's been just me and Pops for as long as I can remember.  We've been on the road training for nearly my whole life."

"Wow, that must have been really tough on you."

"Dunno, I guess I'm used to it."  I thought for a long moment.  "Nabiki?"

"Hmmmm?"

"Does Akane really hate boys?"

"No, not really, it's just that we've always had a lot of trouble with them.  They keep saying the most horrible, perverted things about us, and sometimes even to us…"  She looked away.  "Akane and I found out a long time ago that the only boys who were actually attracted to us were too sick to be trusted."

'Cause you're freaks, right.  Suddenly, I felt really, really bad about what I'd said at the table earlier.

Nabiki looked back at me, a strained smile on her face.  "At least we know you're not a sicko, don't we?  If you were, you wouldn't find the idea of being engaged to me so repulsive."

You got that right. Man, I hoped she wasn't gonna cry.  I hate it when girls cry.  "It ain't just you…" I began

Nabiki gave another sidelong glance at her twin.  "It never is."   She looked back at me.  "Ranma, do me a favor.  Talk to Akane, OK?   I think you'll like her if you get to know her.  I mean, we're pretty much stuck together until this engagement thing gets resolved anyway."

I should've said no.  Actually, I should've said 'Hell no!'  But she just looked so desperate, you know?  I just couldn't do it.  So I tried to find another way out instead.  "How am I gonna do that?"

Nabiki actually smiled a little, probably because I didn't object.  "She usually wakes up before I do, so you can either talk to her in the morning, or you can wait until tomorrow night, when it's her turn to stay up late."

I really, really didn't wanna do this.  But I wasn't gonna hurt her feelings if I didn't have to, either.  Finally I said.  "I'll think about it."

Nabiki looked relieved.  "Thanks.  Goodnight."

"Goodnight."

Oh man.  What am I gonna do?

********

Dare I continue this?

******* OMAKE *******

....Brock looked white.  "Oh, no! Pikachu is down!  He was our last Pokémon!  What are we going to do?

Ash winced.  He wished that it hadn't come to this, but nothing was going to stand the way of his dream of becoming the greatest Pokémon trainer of all time.  He took a deep breath, then reached into his backpack and carefully withdrew the gleaming Colt 1911. 

"John Moses Browning, I choose you!"

-- "A Fist-full of Pokmon", chapter 2